Kenya and China start to share experiences

Signing of MOU in Wuhan (17-21 September 2012; Photo: Gé van den Eertwegh)

ISRIC - World Soil Information catalyzes cooperation agreements between Kenya and China through Green Water Credits Projects.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Changjiang (Yangtze River) Water Resources protection Institute (CWRPI), under the Changjiang Water Resources Commission, and Kenyan Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA). This took place during the project kick-off meeting on Green Water Management and Credits for China in Wuhan (17-21 September 2012).

The agreement will promote cooperation on water resources management between Kenya and China, specifically in the Changjiang Basin, through the implementation of the green water credits concept; ISRIC will facilitate the realization of the MoU.

Green Water Credits business model presented during Stockholm water week

The Green Water Credits business model was presented by Godert van Lynden during the Stockholm water week. Measures taken upstream are partly paid for by benefiting users downstream.(webcast)

Van Lynden: “We developed a business model for soil and water management and conducted studies in many different river basins. We learned that farmers are aware that if they take measures to infiltrate rain water it reduced the run off and stops the erosion. In many cases they lack the money to do so.”

Upstream meassures, downstream benefits
“The idea behind our green water credits is that downstream water users will benefit from the measures taken up stream”, explains Van Lynden. “What is needed is a revolving fund. If the money saved by the downstream users partly goes to such a fund, it can finance the farmers upstream to take the measures.”

Many years for cost saving effects to emerge
According to Van Lynden especially energy companies with hydropower and drinking water suppliers can benefit. Scenario studies in various river basins showed that investments in a regional programme and fund for providing loans can be earned back in a few years. “The difficulty is to bridge the first five years after the measures have been taken and downstream the cost saving effects have not yet emerged.” The business model has only been studied so far, but Van Lynden expects implementation projects will start soon in Kenya and China.

Greening an entire basin
That a regional river basin oriented programme can give spectacular results was proven by Kifle Woldearegay Woldemariam of the Mekele University in Ethiopia. He talked about a project in the Tigray river basin. With 80 different rain water harvesting technologies some 80% of the highly degraded soil in the basin was covered. Now the basin is green again and even in the dry season the land can be irrigated and downstream there is water in the river.

The session ‘Investment options at scale, new directions in water and food’ has been recorded and can seen on two videos on the webcast page) of the website of the Stockholm Water Week.

Carbon storage opportunity for Kenyan farmers

Storing carbon in soil and vegetation provides rainfed farmers with an opportunity to participate in emerging carbon offset markets. The reward that rainfed farmers might be able to earn by storing carbon has now been calculated for the Upper Tana river catchment in Southeast Kenya.

For a scenario that assumes sustainable management practices on 60 percent of the suitable land, ISRIC researchers have calculated that annual earnings of US$7-13 per hectare are feasible. The results of the study were published recently in Land Degradation & Development (8 Feb. 2012, online).


The Upper Tana river catchment has been overexploited. Despite an increase in the area under cultivation, food production per person has decreased due to erosion, declining soil fertility and lowered levels of soil organic matter. Land and water conservation practices such as mulching and terracing can mitigate these problems, but many rainfed farmers do not have the means for such practices. A carbon-offset market could provide a financial mechanism to stimulate these farmers. The calculations were part of the Green Water Credits project. This project promotes land and water conservation practices by developing another compensatory financial mechanism: farmers earn money from downstream water users who benefit from improved water quality and less erosion upstream.

Carbon fixing potential

ISRIC researcher Niels Batjes calculated the carbon fixing potential of the land and water conserving practices applied in the Green Water Credits scheme. Then he translated these projected soil carbon stock gains into potential financial benefits on a carbon offset market, where parties will pay for carbon storage as compensation for carbon emissions elsewhere. He used a simple model and a conservative price estimate of US$ 10 per ton of CO2 fixed. Compensation prices now range from US$ 5 to 30 per tonne CO2 equivalent.

Potential carbon payment

If the carbon fixing practices were applied on 60% of the suitable soil area in the catchment (348,000 hectares), some 4.8 to 9.3 x 106 tonnes CO2 could be stored in the soil over a period of 20 years. This implies a potential annual carbon reward of US$ 7-13 per hectare for farmers. Higher market prices for CO2 equivalents will probably result in a quicker implementation of the CO2 mitigation measures in agriculture, Batjes concludes.

Experiments with rewarding systems

Several carbon-offset markets exist. and various countries are now experimenting with this environmental rewards system. Kenya was the first country to issue voluntary carbon unit (VCU) credits in a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) forest-protection scheme, which was implemented in 2011

Article: Batjes, NH 2012. Projected changes in soil organic carbon stocks upon adoption of recommended soil and water conservation practices in the Upper Tana river catchment, Kenya. Land Degradation & Development, doi: 10.1002/ldr.2141